Happy Full Moon: Follow The One-Footed Goat

The full moon occurs on Thursday, September 19th in the nakshatra of Purva Bhadrapada, a set of two bright stars that exist within the constellation of the pegasus.  This constellation is a culmination of Jupitarian energy. Jupiter is a benefic planet and is called the great Guru because he has the most moons or most disciples. He creates expansion on a deeply spiritual level while increasing wealth and philosophy.

Purva Bhadrapada in Sanskrit means the auspicious foot. It is symbolized by the two front legs of a funeral cot or bed, a sword and a two faced man.

The funeral cot or bed represents our exit from this material world. It is closely tied to the idea that sleep is a temporary form of death. Deep dreamless sleep grants us the ability to subconsciously see our true unitive selves. This concept is illistrated in the deep sleep state that exists in the third syllable of AUM which is called Prajna.

The sword is affiliated with the ability to cut things off, indicating that death is necessary for rebirth.

Purva Bhadrapada is also considered a two faced man. One face is serene and the other is full of rage. This represents how human nature can be two fold. We can put on a front of happiness even when our true character is strewn with demons.

Purva Bhadrapada is ruled by the diety Aja Ekapada, “the one footed goat”.  He is part of the entourage of Rudra, The God of Storms. Rudra is one of the fiercest forms of Shiva and has a destructive nature. Thus Aja Ekapada is associated with black magic and card #15, the Devil, in the western Tarot pack. However, in the Vedic perspective the negative destruction that this nakshatra can create is eventually divinely ordained.

Aja Ekapada is a transport vehicle for Agni the God of fire. Agni helps transform what has fallen into decay into life and vitality. We also have the transformative energy of Yajamana Vdyamana Shakti on our side. This energy has the power to raise a spiritual person up in life.

Face your demons and burn them up to uplift humanity. This a time of great change. Embrace it. Remember we are all humans, but we need to strive to be better ones.

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Practice for Everyone; Raksha Bandhan and Full Moon in Dhanishta

The full moon occurred late last night on Tuesday, August 20th 4 degrees in Aquarius and in the Nakshatra of Dhanishta. Dhanishta means “wealthy” or “famous” and is ruled by Mangala or Mars and the 8 Vasus or the Gods that rule natural phenomena. This lunar sign is symbolized by a flute or drum. Krishna orchestrates the world through his flute and Shiva manages the world through his Damru or drum. Therefore, Dhanishta is an instrument of God that unifies all beings. It gives us adaptability, strength and overall benevolence. The energy of Dhanishta and Aquarius gives us the confidence and drive to work together toward the greater good of humanity.

This particular full moon falls on the Hindu holiday of Raksha Bandhan. This day sisters honor their brothers by tying a Rakhi or silk thread around their wrists. The sacred thread reinforces the bond between siblings and represents unconditional love and protection. The Rakhi has been used throughout history to unify communities and ease social tensions. It is even said that Rajpat and Maratha Queens sent the Munghal Kings Rakhis to prevent them from invading their land.

Rasksha Bandhan and the planetary influence of Dhanishta is another reminder that we are integral pieces of a greater whole. Meaning that we all share energy in this world. That is why in our yoga practice it is important to remember that we don’t just practice for ourselves. The stability that the asana practice brings to our lives gives us the ability to be more tolerant, generous, loving and understanding people in the world. Unfortunately this message can get a little skewed in a modern day yoga world that advertises classes labeled as hot bootie, shredded ab, sculpt flow.

We need to remember that the real reason we stay disciplined and dedicated to our practice is because we need to move beyond the selfish ego and offer up our better selves to the world. In the practice of Ashtanga yoga we remind ourselves of this fact at the end of every practice by chanting the Mangala Mantra which ends with:

 

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings be happy and free and may our thoughts and actions contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.

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The Coiled Serpent: New Moon in Aslesha

On August 6th the new moon occured in Cancer creating a new cycle of compassion and deeper intuition. Cancer is ruled by the moon which helps us to access innate knowledge. We often mistake this intuition for our emotions. If we are brave enough to experience her truth, the moon can take us beyond our emotions into deeper awareness.

According to Vedic astrology this new moon occurs in the Nakshatra of Aslesha, the coiled snake of kundalini. Aslesha is called the entwiner and is ruled by Mercury, our lower practical mind. The snake’s nature is to hide and in yogic philosophy it hides and the base of the spine in Muladhara Chakra, our base chakra or nerve plexus that dictates our feelings about our own physical survival.

The coiled snake of Kundalini is a consciousness energy reservoir that can be activated through bandhas, breathing, dristi (gaze) and movement. The word Kundalini is comprised of two root words: Kundala meaning coiled and Kunda meaning a pit. Once it is activated and guided in the correct direction kundalini energy can provide tremendous illumination, awakening energy nexuses throughout the body leading us further down the path of self understanding and truth.

During my last trip to India, I met with my Ayurveda Teacher, Dr. Madan Kumar, and we discussed the concept of kundalini. He said the idea of the coiled snake was too archaic for a modern society that yearns for factual scientific evidence. He said that recent studies have shown that kundalini is in fact an energy reservoir created by “controlling your natural reflexes”.

The more I contemplated and researched what he said I found myself discovering that he meant constantly controlling sympathetic nervous system response. In physical yoga the practitioner puts himself in scenarios that would generally cause a fight or flight response (in a normal person) because of the challenging, fear invoking nature of the exercises. However Hatha Yoga provides the tools of bandha (particularly Mula Bandha, the contraction of the PC muscle), dristi (gaze), and even breathing, that allows the practitioner to control and suppress the sympathetic nervous system response. This maintains the energy that would normally be exuded from the body in the form of adrenaline and other stress hormones. We can then guide this storehouse of energy up through the chakra system awakening the more enlightened nerve plexuses which will allow us to enter into a higher state of consciousness, unconditional love, presence and peace.

We must pay close attention to steady the mind and body this moon cycle so we can correctly direct Aslesha’s energy. Take time to observe your thoughts and emotions in a detached manner. This way, as the waxing moon pervades, we can tangle our hearts in pure unconditional love so compassion and kindness pervades.

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Guru Purnima: Honor Your Teachers

On Monday, July 22nd the full moon occurs in the nakshatra Uttara Ashadha meaning “latter victory” or “latter unconquered”. This causes us to focus on gaining strength from doing what is ethically right and virtuous. Uttara Ashada is symbolized by an elephant tusk or the four posts of the bed driving the theme that establishing a strong foundation in truth will grant you victory in your dharma. The deity associated with this lunar mansion is Vishvadevas, meaning all gods or universal gods. The Vishvadevas are the ten sons of good Dharma. They have the power to grant unchallengeable victory over evil. Vishvadevas deal with the laws of karma, right action, the laws of time and universal moral principles.

This particular full moon is the day of Gurupurnima in Yogic Tradition. It is a day devoted to honoring the great teachers in our lives. Guru means remover of darkness or one that brings light to the darkness. The guru is the imparter of Jnana or good knowledge and acts as our spiritual guide. The syllable gu means shadow and ru means he who disperses them. The guru therefore has the power to disperse darkness and illuminate the correct spiritual path.

As an adjective guru literally means heavy, implying heavy with knowledge. The root of the word guru is found in “gri”, to invoke or praise and also “gur”, to raise up or make an effort. It is cognate to the latin word gravis which means serious, weighted or heavy.

The Guru is affiliated with the planet Jupiter, the largest planet, because he has the most moons or disciples.

The guru concept was intruduced in the Upanishads in 2000BC. The Upanishads are a series of stories that embody the foundation of the Hindu religion. They were originally orally transmitted and later inscribed. The word Upanisad means to sit down near. Literally meaning to sit down before a teacher to orally receive knowledge.

Gurupurnima is celebrated in the Hindu month Ashad (July-August) and is celebrated on the birthday of the great sage Vyasa who contributed vastly to the documentation and development of Hindu philosophy. Vyasa is said to have edited Vedas and classified them into 4 groups. He is credited with being the author of the Mahabharata and is also a character in the great text. Vyasa also is said to have edited the 18 Purunas and the Srimad Bhagavata. He was even the teacher of Dattatreya who is considered the guru of all gurus. Vyasa is often considered an incarnation of Vishnu, the preserver in the Indic trilogy of gods who chooses to incarnate himself to illuminate the minds of the people of the earth.

In my opinion, the ultimate role of the guru is to illuminate the fact that the true teacher lies within all of us. As teachers we draw out a path of practice that ultimately leads the student back to himself. We all have the power to dispell darkness inside of us by acknowledging what is not serving us physically, emotionally and spiritually. As physical yogis we process our samskaras on a conscious and subconscious level in our daily practice. We manipulate energy within the body through breathing, bandha, asana and dristi. This process helps to clear out our negative tendencies that cause suffering and separateness in forms of disease in the body and unrest in the mind. The use of asana practice serves as a foundation for our lives because it grants us stability in our bodies and minds so we can relate better to ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. That then allows us to relate to others, the world and the universe in the same way. This process brings us out of the false egocentric idea that we are separate beings fending for ourselves in a scary uncontrollable world and brings us back into the idea that we all share energy and are part of one loving source. Therefore our discipline and dedication to the mat practice serves as a platform for illumination and true happiness in our lives. It sets us free.

It is extremely fitting that Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s birthday falls on this day. Thank you Guruji for creating the tremendously transformative gift of the Ashtanga yoga system which continues to serve as a foundation in my life and teaching.

Celebrate and honor your teachers today. Begin with honoring your mother who is your first teacher and move on from there. It is an auspicious time to begin a spiritual quest. Dive into yourself and be courageous enough to get a glimpse of who you truly are. Take time to acknowledge the beauty that your community helps you see within yourself and in others. This brings you closer to your own personal truth so you can be liberated from separateness and inspire others to be brave enough to do the same.

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Lighten Up: New Moon in Gemini

The new moon occurs in Gemini on July 8th. Gemini is a Mercurial sign that represents our lower mind. It is associated with reason, discrimination and intellect.

In Vedic astrology this new moon is in the lunar mansion of Punarvasu. Punarvasu is a quiver of arrows. When the arrow quiver of Punarvasu is aimed correctly it is able to penetrate deeply into who we truly are. The goddess associated with Punarvasu is Aditi, the goddess of virtue.  She helps us in the pursuit of self-understanding.

Aditi was one of thirteen daughters belonging to Daksha, the Progenitor. She was given to the Sage Kashyapa for marriage and she bore 12 sons that were rulers of the heavens. Kashyapa had 12 additional wives who bore children that populated the universe with demons, birds and other living species.

Aditi’s sons were stricken with bad luck because the demons rebelled against them in the rule over the heavens. She was so distressed by the fate of her sons that she vigilantly prayed and fasted to Surya, the Sun God asking for his help. Surya was so impressed by her devotion and discipline that he offered one thousandth of himself to Aditi in the form of a son. He entered into her body using his ray of conscious light, called Shushumna, which in itself contained a thousand finer rays of brilliant illumination.

Aditi nurtured her unborn god son by fasting and performing prayers despite her husband’s distress that she would kill the fetus. The baby was then born as bright as a thousand suns and defended the honor of his brothers by burning all of the demons that had crossed them.

Aditi embodies the essence of what our yoga practice can provide for our lives. As we gain control over our physical and emotional bodies through the practice of yoga we get closer to becoming more balanced, virtuous, compassionate people. She shows us that disciplined practice and devotion slowly burns away the false ego and refines us into our best god like selves.

Point the quiver inward to plant the seeds of self-discovery during this waxing moon period. Take time for meditation to honor the brilliance within you so you can see the luminescence in others.Image